Grammar Guide
How to Sound like a Local in Colombia

How to Sound like a Local in Colombia

Quick Answer

Are you planning to visit the beautiful country of Colombia soon? If so, here are some useful slang words and phrases you'll want to know. While this list doesn't include every Colombian slang word, it should serve as a useful foundation as you navigate your way around the country and speak with locals.

Street in Cartagena, Colombia

Me regala… = Would you give me…

In Colombia, when you ask for something, you say ¿Me regala…? This literally translates into Would you gift me…? It may sound a little strange asking someone to gift you a glass of water, but it’s a phrase Colombians use all the time to ask for favors. Don’t forget to add por favor at the end!

¿Me regala una menta, por favor?
Would you give me a mint, please?

Rumba = Party

Colombians love to have rumbas until dawn. If you’re looking for a night of dancing, lively music, and mingling with the local crowds, you’ll want to know this word when you hear it. It is usually used to describe going out for a night on the town.

Llegó el fin de semana y vamos a salir de rumba esta noche.
It’s the weekend and we’re going to party tonight.

Guayabo = Hangover

If you go out de rumba, chances are the next day you’ll wake up with a bit of a guayabo. You’ll need this word to accompany that giant glass of water you’ll want when you wake up.

Salí de rumba ayer y ahora tengo guayabo. No te imaginas cómo me duele la cabeza.
I went out partying last night and now I have a hangover. You can’t imagine how much my head hurts.

Vuelta a la manzana = Go around the block

When you’re given directions, you might hear the phrase vuelta a la manzana used quite often. It literally means to go around the apple, but the apple you go around is actually the street block.

Voy a dar una vuelta a la manzana. Necesito aire fresco.
I’m going to go around the block. I need some fresh air.

Parce = Dude

Parce can be best translated as dude or bro and is particularly popular among the younger generation. When used in the feminine, the only thing that changes is the article that goes in front of the word! You might also hear Colombians refer to each other as parcero or parcera, but this is just another variation of parce!

¡Parce, hace rato que no te veo!
Dude, it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen you!

Embarrar = To mess up

This word literally means to muddy something up. It makes sense – mud does make quite a mess! If you happen to embarrar some of these Spanish terms, don’t fret! Just smile and keep on practicing!

No estudié lo suficiente para el examen, así que creo que la embarré.
I didn't study sufficiently for the exam, so I think I messed up.

Mamar gallo = To tease

The expression mamar gallo literally means to suckle the rooster, which seems a bit strange. However, you’ll probably hear it a lot because Colombians love to tease. This word is particularly effective when coupled with a witty comeback.

Ojalá mi hermano dejara de mamar gallo cada vez que me pongo mi riñonera.
I wish my brother would stop teasing me whenever I wear my fanny pack.

Berraco = Someone skilled in something

If someone is a berraco or a berraca, it means he or she is really amazing at doing something. It’s quite the compliment, so if you are called it, congrats!

Esa chica es una berraca para la ortografía.
That girl is a gifted speller.

Hacer una vaca = To pool money together

If you and your friends are in Colombia and want to plan a trip together, this expression will be particularly useful. You’ll want to hacer una vaca to save up to take a road trip, go to a concert, or even rent a house out for the weekend in Anapoima!

Este fin de semana debemos hacer una vaca entre todos para alquilar una casa en la playa.
This weekend we should all pool our money together to rent a house on the beach.

Medellín skyline in Colombia

¡Felicidades, parce! With all this new vocabulary, you're ready to book your trip to Medellín, Bogotá, or Barranquilla. Remember to take this list with you on your travels! ¡Buen viaje!

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